Ferry shipments in troubled water

  • May. 26, 2015 2:00 p.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverTroubles with the new summer sailing schedule are already causing headaches for some island businesses. Of the two ferries that serve Haida Gwaii, the smaller of the two, The Northern Adventure, is scheduled to service the islands now and throughout the summer, until it’s relieved by the Northern Expedition in September. Although the summer season has yet to officially begin, bringing with it an increase in foot and vehicle traffic, the wait list is already long.One transportation company, who asked to remain anonymous, is having a hard time getting their dry goods on the ferry to Haida Gwaii from Prince Rupert. Amongst the cargo, live plants have been bumped from sailings, forcing gardeners to accept less time in the garden this year in an already-short growing season. To get a truck and pup trailer on the Northern Adventure, the company has been wait-listed until June. “It isn’t hurting our business as much as it is hurting our customers,” a company spokesperson said. While vital shipments of goods like groceries haven’t been bumped, the wait list raises concern of how BC Ferries can accommodate the economy-dependent tourist season. BC Ferries told the Observer if commercial space is at a premium, they will on occasion convert some regular vehicle space. The commercial space is booked on a first-come, first-serve basis. The demand for space has increased since they implemented service reductions, which according to BC Ferries was requested by the Ministry of Transportation in 2014. The ministry, however, says BC Ferries was responsible to reset the sailing for each community. Queen Charlotte mayor Greg Martin has written a letter to BC Ferries and the Minister of Transportation. The letter points out the on-going issues with commercial traffic, metaphorically backed up as far as Prince George due to the wait list. “It’s not just the freight companies that are hurting: this bottleneck is strangling our economy,” Mr. Martin says, adding there’s enough of a backlog to fill a third sailing per week between Prince Rupert and Skidegate and still have some leftover freight.

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